Can’t Do the 90/90 Hip Switch? Here’s What Your Body’s Trying to Tell You

The 90/90 hip switch stretch requires a lot of mobility in your knees and hips.
Image Credit: Kim Grundy/LIVESTRONG.com

The 90/90 hip switch may sound like a cool new dance move, but it's actually a stretch that improves hip and knee mobility. Having full range of motion is essential for healthy, pain-free joints.

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"The 90/90 stretch is one of the most effective hip stretches you can perform," says Grayson Wickham, PT, DPT, CSCS, founder of Movement Vault. "It targets all of your hip rotator muscles, including your gluteus, piriformis and deep hip rotator muscles. It will specifically help you improve your internal and external hip rotation, which most people struggle with."

Maintaining hip flexibility is important, as it helps to prevent injury — and not just in your hips. When your hips are tight, other areas of your body, including your knees and back, compensate. A 2015 study in the ​Journal of Back and Musculoskeletal Rehabilitation​ found that hip stretches and strength exercises helped reduce pain and improve mobility for those who had low back pain.

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So what does it mean if you can't do this stretch? "The 90/90 takes a prerequisite amount of mobility in your hips to get into the starting position," Wickham says. "If your hips are very tight, you will not be able to get into this position without pain. This is a sign that you should work on a less advanced active stretch first and build your way up."

Tip

If you've had any previous hip injuries or surgeries, make sure you talk to your doctor before doing this stretch. Remember, you should feel a stretch but not sharp pain.

“The 90/90 stretch is a great stretch for almost anyone, but you always want to listen to your body," Wickham says. "If you have a sharp pain and/or pinching in either of your hips while in this position, you will want to adjust your position or work on a different stretch first.”

If You: Feel Pain, Pinching or Stiffness in the Front Leg

You Might: Have Limited Hip External Rotation

"Having limited hip external rotation will make it difficult to get into the starting position and perform the stretch properly," Wickham says. If you have limited hip external rotation, activities like crossing your legs to tie your shoelaces can also be difficult.

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Fix It

To help you improve mobility in external rotation, Wickham recommends the following stretches, as well as modifications.

1. Standing Hip External Rotation

JW Player placeholder image
Sets 3
Time 30 Sec
Type Flexibility
  1. Stand in front of a stool, table or other surface that's slightly lower than hip height.
  2. Place your right leg on the table, your leg externally rotated out and your outer thigh resting on the table.
  3. You can remain upright or lean forward for a deeper stretch.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 to 5 times.
  5. Repeat on the other other leg.

Tip

"This is the same position that your front leg would be in during the 90/90 stretch, but the standing version is a lot less challenging," Wickham says.

2. Piriformis Stretch

JW Player placeholder image
Sets 3
Time 15 Sec
Type Flexibility
  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Bend one leg over the other, resting your ankle on the opposite knee.
  3. Place your hands behind your leg and pull up toward your chest, feeling a stretch in the hip of the bent leg.
  4. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat 3 to 5 times.
  5. Switch legs and repeat on the opposite side.

3. 90/90 Hip Switch for External Rotation

JW Player placeholder image
Sets 2
Time 30 Sec
Type Flexibility
  1. Start by sitting up straight on a mat.
  2. Bend one leg in front of you and the leg rotated out.
  3. Place a pillow or yoga block under your outside knee so you still feel a stretch but no pain.
  4. Bring the other leg behind your body, with your leg turned in, knee, shin and foot resting on the floor. Both knees should be bent to 90 degrees.
  5. Your trunk will turn with the leg in front, however ,make sure you keep your back straight and shoulders back. Try not to lean to one side. Sit on both hips evenly.
  6. Reset back to center before lowering your knee back down to the block.
  7. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds and repeat 2 to 3 times on each side.

Tip

As your mobility improves, use a flatter pillow or smaller yoga block until your knee is flat on the ground.

If You: Feel Pain, Pinching or Stiffness in the Back Leg

You Might: Have Limited Hip Internal Rotation

Having limited hip internal rotation can also make it difficult to correctly perform this stretch. Being able to internally rotate your hip is important for a healthy hip joint — and a healthy knee as well.

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A February 2019 study in Knee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy​ found that athletes who had reduced hip internal rotation were more at risk of an ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tear.

Fix It

There are stretches and modifications to give you the flexibility to work your way into the full stretch. Wickham recommends this banded hip internal rotation, in which a belt or resistance band is used to help gently pull the hip joint, allowing you to improve hip mobility.

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1. Banded Hip Internal Rotation

JW Player placeholder image
Reps 10
Type Flexibility
  1. Place a resistance band or belt around the leg of a sturdy table or chair.

  2. Get on your knees and place the band around your hip, high up on your leg.

  3. Scoot away so there's tension on the band. The band isn't to provide resistance, but to gently pull your hip joint in a more optimal position for a stretch.

  4. Place your hands on the floor so you're on all fours.

  5. Move your foot outward, which rotates your hip internally.

  6. Hold the foot outward for 1 to 2 seconds and perform 8 to 10 reps.

  7. Repeat on the other leg.

2. 90/90 Hip Switch With Hip Pillow

JW Player placeholder image
Time 1 Min
Type Flexibility
  1. Place a pillow underneath your hips, which will lift them off the ground and put your back hip into less of an internally rotated position.
  2. Start with a larger pillow and progress to a flatter pillow and eventually, no pillow as your mobility improves.
  3. Continue the 90/90 stretch normally as instructed above.

3. 90/90 Hip Switch for Internal Rotation

JW Player placeholder image
Sets 2
Time 30 Sec
Type Flexibility
  1. Start by sitting up straight on a mat.
  2. Bend one leg in front of your body, with the leg rotated out so the outside of your thigh is on the floor. Your knee should be bent at 90 degrees, with your knee, shin and foot resting on the floor.
  3. Bring the other leg behind your body, with your leg turned in.
  4. Place a pillow or yoga block centered in front of you.
  5. Your trunk will turn with the leg in front, however, make sure you keep your back straight and shoulders back. Try not to lean to one side. Sit on both hips evenly.
  6. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
  7. Move your legs up for a rest, then lower your knee back down.
  8. Repeat 2 to 3 times on each side.

Tip

"This helps a lot of times when someone feels pain on the inside of their back knee and is helpful to reduce this pain and strain on the ligaments on the inside of your back knee," Wickham says.

If You: Have a Hard Staying Upright and Keeping Your Back Straight

You Might: Have Decreased Spinal Mobility

"Having a tight midsection and/or low back muscles will make it difficult to maintain an upright position with your upper body," says Wickham. "This makes performing the stretch correctly very difficult."

Fix It

The following stretches will improve flexibility in your spine to not only help you better perform the 90/90 hip switch but also improve your mobility in activities you perform in your everyday life.

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1. Segmented Cat

JW Player placeholder image
Reps 5
Type Flexibility
  1. Start on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
  2. Start by tuck your butt/tailbone under.
  3. Then lift up your mid-spine. Focus on making a fluid wave with your spine.
  4. Lastly, lift up your thoracic area as your tuck your chin in.
  5. Then, unwind in the opposite direction. Look up to the ceiling and end with your tailbone in the air.
  6. Repeat 5 times.

2. Quadruped Side Bend

JW Player placeholder image
Sets 3
Time 30 Sec
Type Flexibility
  1. Start kneeling and sit back on your heels, letting your hands stretch straight out in front of you.
  2. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
  3. Move your hands to one side, feeling the stretch along your side.
  4. Hold for 30 seconds.
  5. Walk your hands over to the other side and hold for 30 seconds.
  6. Repeat 3 times on each side.

How to Do the 90/90 Hip Switch

Now that you've built up your mobility, let's show you how to do the 90/90 hip switch — with tips and modifications to help if you can't quite nail this move.

90/90 Hip Switch

JW Player placeholder image
Time 1 Min
Type Flexibility
  1. Start by sitting up straight on a mat.
  2. Bend one leg in front of your body, with the leg rotated out so the outside of your thigh is on the floor. Your knee should be bent at 90 degrees, with your knee, shin and foot resting on the floor.
  3. Bring the other leg behind your body with your leg turned in. This back knee should also be bent at 90 degrees, with your knee, shin and foot resting on the floor.
  4. Your trunk will turn with the leg in front, however, make sure you keep your back straight and shoulders back. Try not to lean to one side. Sit on both hips evenly.
  5. Hold for 30 to 60 seconds.
  6. Move your legs up and switch sides, so that the other leg is rotated out in front and the other rotated in behind you.
  7. Hold 30 to 60 seconds.
  8. Repeat 2 to 3 times on each side.

Tip

Once you have perfected this move, Wickham says to turn this into an active stretch for best results. "You can do this by driving your front leg and ankle down into the ground as hard as possible, while you maintain your maximal stretch," he says.

"Turning the 90/90 stretch from a passive to an active stretch will make it 10 times more effective. When you are actively stretching, you are essentially getting stronger at your hip’s end-range of motion, which is typically the range of motion in which you are the weakest."

You can also progress to a shin box get-up, which involves lifting into an upright position on your knee and shin.

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